Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BJU Bonus!

After living here for a while we can all name a few pet peeves (very large pets, Great Dane sized…): there’s the bank, IKEA, public bathrooms, the house of hell aka Zhongguancun (if you do not know what this is – do not ask, just pretend it doesn’t exist), any touristy area during a big holiday (the feeling of being special quickly wears off – and what do they do with the photographs they take of us anyway?), the markets (the haggling soon becomes a drag) and of course, the hospital. The reason to seek medical care is rarely by choice or a happy event (babies one of the few exceptions).

Still, while waiting for an appointment or caring for a sick family member or friend at BJU, we all have to eat at some point and we are very happy to share our newest find.

It is easy to relent to Comptoir De France’s overpriced coffee, sandwiches and quiches and let’s admit it; Annie’s is across the street and their cheap, quick Italian fare is not bad but….if you are in the mood for something quick, good, inexpensive and authenticly Chinese, in a clean, simple environment look no further than one block past the BJU entrance to this little dumpling place.

Stacey’s very competent driver Mr. Zhang took us to this place one day (no idea what it is called) when we were out and about.  We asked for something quick and good – no pressure!!   He knows we love local food, like it spicy and have high standards when it comes to quality but we had no idea what to expect when we optimistically entered the simple restaurant.  It was clean, popular, with a picture menu, and as we later discovered, an English dumpling menu as well.

As soon as we sat down, I spotted an old favorite at another table, cold, thick wheat noodles and thinly sliced cucumbers in a rich sesame sauce – zhi ma jiang mian. Back in the old days, the late 90s if you can believe it, we used to frequent what we called “Little Hilton”, a hole-in-the-wall in the hutong that used to be next to the Hilton on third north ring road and we would always order this dish. Once, during a summer rain, the place flooded and we were sitting with our feet in three inches of water but still, they continued to serve and we continued to slurp.

With its rich sesame sauce, slightly slimy noodles, cold crisp cucumbers and a touch of chili, it is the perfect warm day dish. And as it was a warm day we continued to order another favorite: cold sliced, silken tofu with century eggs or liang ban dou fu song hua dan, as it is called in Chinese. Mention this to anyone not familiar with the dish and you get a wrinkled nose and a eeuuwww but please, try it. The silky eggs (close your eyes if you don’t like the look of the green transparent whites and dark green hue of the yolk) in combination with the smooth tofu and with a dash of vinegar, soy and chili sauce is divine.

Another winner is tofu skins with celery, fu pi qin cai, also a cold dish. The chewy tofu with the crisp celery in the light sauce with a hint of sesame cools any tongue that was accidentally doused by too much chili sauce.

Of course we had to try the dumplings; it is a dumpling restaurant after all and they had gone through the trouble of translating the menu into Chinglish. We love dumplings with a different and unexpected texture and ordered the pork and lotus root filled dumplings, steamed, for a whooping 12 rmb for a plate. Unfortunately we have to say that we have had better. The skins were a bit too thick and chewy. There was nothing wrong with the filling but why have mediocre dumplings when there are so many places where you can enjoy great ones?

Everything tastes better with cold beer!  And we love the little glasses.

We have been fortunate lately and have not had to visit Beijing United Family Hospital in quite some time but still, if we were in the area, we would definitely go back here for lunch again.


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